December 7, 2014

Christmas: It’s Not Our Birthday Party

It may be too late to start this conversation.

But Christmas gifts. Yikes.

A few disclaimers:

1. As stated in many other posts, I am not a Love Language “Gifts”person. I appreciate the thought, time, and money put into a gift, but I don’t feel more or less loved based on receiving them. But that’s not true for everyone. To each his own Love Language. 

2. I am the worst gift giver. (Just ask every person who has ever been my Secret Santa partner.) But that’s not true for everyone. For some people (cough, cough, Kaylee,) gift giving is an obvious talent. And some people really seem to have their act together regarding this topic. There is no need for me to get up in somebody's grill to fix something that ain't broke.

3. I have no control over grandparents who like to spoil the crap out of their grandchildren. Nobody does.

So...not sure whether to laugh or cry at the latest ugly Christmas sweater designs.


Here are my beefs about Christmas Gifts. They aren't all bad. But there are situations where they can cause more harm than good:

1. When they make us think that Christmas is about us and our children. As stated in the title, it is not our birthday party. And I bet that all the Birthday Boy would love to receive at His own birthday party is to watch His people caring for “the least of these.” (See Matthew 25.)

2. When they instill the attitude of “I deserve this.” When gift giving becomes a strong tradition for any holiday, we begin to instill the idea in ourselves and in our children that once these dates roll around, we should expect to receive gifts. That we deserve the gifts we are given. (Um. Nope.) Thinking that we deserve to receive gifts completely strips away the actual meaning of the word gift: “a thing willingly given to someone without payment.”

3. When they manipulate our mind to turn “wants” into “needs.” Here is what usually happens when we make Christmas lists: We can’t think of anything we need. We start thinking of stuff that we want. Then, the stuff that we want picks at our brain until we are absolutely convinced that we need it. Something tells me that many people, like us, don’t wait until Christmas and simply go out and buy the stuff that they actually, truly need. I think it would take a lot of convincing to look through our Christmas gifts and be able to honestly say, “I needed that.”

4. When a designer anything is given to a human being under the age of 16. Don’t even think about buying our one year old DKNY jeans that she will only wear for four months. This needs no explanation.

5. When an obnoxious amount of gifts are given to children with no long-term memory. Honestly. 0-1.5 year olds will never remember if they are given zero or fifteen gifts. Why aren’t we taking advantage of this "get-out-of-jail-free" card, people?! We all know they would rather have the boxes their gifts came in anyways.

6. When they cause way too much stress on our budget, our time, and our ability to enjoy the holidays. It's not that the act of giving doesn't require sacrifice. But. It’s hard and stressful to pick out gifts for people who already have everything, isn’t it? And if you are able to read this post from a warm house in the United States of America – something tells me you may be in the category of “you already have everything you need.” I know I am in that category.

7. When they change the “I’m thankful for what I have” attitude we just professed at Thanksgiving, to a discontented “I need more” attitude. (Black Friday, anyone?) Our attitude is contagious, especially to our children. What is our attitude towards giving and receiving gifts teaching our children?

I am all about simplicity. And celebrating the holidays doesn't have to be as complicated as we have made it. But I know that gift giving can’t always be avoided.

So here are a few ideas I have to simplify Christmas gift giving, or at least to bring more significance to our giving:

1. Intentionally match the gifts you give among your family to what you give to your community. What says "I love my neighbor as much as I love myself" by choosing to give as much as we receive? Maybe this means giving up gifts altogether, or doing Angel Tree, or having your neighbors over for dinner, or giving to Christian causes, or volunteering your time. The options are endless in how we can share outwardly instead of hoarding inwardly.

2. Choose a theme for your gifts. Instead of buying gifts for everyone in Husband’s family, we draw names and give a themed gift. Last year, we gave a game to our person. This year, we are giving books. The simplicity is beautiful.

3. Give gift cards. Whoever said giving gift cards is a thoughtless gift is totally right. However, who doesn’t love getting a gift card and choosing what to spend the money on? My family puts a new spin on this by playing Christmas Bingo with the gift cards we buy as prizes. It is a riot and adds interactive fun to our gift giving.

4. Limit the number of gifts you give your children. The Savior of the world only received three gifts around His second birthday. You can at least limit your gift giving to four with this cute poem: “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.”

5. Give experiences. My nieces still talk about how my parents took them to Michigan’s Adventure Theme Park for the day last summer for their Christmas gift. Creating experiences and memories for our children may have a much longer and lasting impact than a toy they will only love until New Year’s Day (that they convinced you they absolutely “needed.”)

6. Give twofold. Check out this post called “10 Places You Should Do Christmas Shopping Before Going to WalMart.” There are places to shop for stuff that in turn supports some great causes.

And finally, for your next dinner conversation as a couple and as a family – here are a few questions to lovingly and intentionally debate:

1. How can we spend our time and our money the best way this Christmas?

2. Are there any Christmas traditions that are stressing us out and keeping us from enjoying the simple beauty of this holiday that was originally celebrated in a stable with just a few people, a couple of animals, and a manger filled with hay?

3. How can we focus not just inwardly on ourselves, but on sharing Christ’s love within our neighborhood, or those neighborhoods that Christians like to avoid for some odd reason, or those neighborhoods around the world that are literally starving?

4. What kinds of attitudes are we instilling in ourselves and our children about gifts? Is Christmas just an excuse to buy a bunch of stuff we don’t need? Does our attitude as parents demonstrate that it is actually better to give than receive?

Why? It’s simple: Our Christian lifestyle should not make sense to the rest of the world. And to the world, it only makes complete sense to make Christmas and gift giving all about ourselves (and our own children.)

Grace and Peace,

PS. What are your thoughts? What are your ideas for simplifying Christmas into the beautifully simple holiday in which it began?